Understanding of the domestic political environment is key to building broad country ownership and the successful implementation of reform programs supported by international financial institutions (IFIs). But recipient countries are not unitary actors: policymakers are influenced by special interest groups (SIGs) opposing reforms, leading to distorted policies. Using a new model of the financial relations between a benevolent IFI and a sovereign borrower subject to influence by SIGs, we analyze the determinants and welfare impacts of conditional and unconditional assistance. While conditionality may raise IFI welfare, economize on the amount of assistance, and lower domestic distortions, it may not always raise recipient country welfare. Recipient governments are always better off if assistance is provided unconditionally.